This I Believe

Effie - Pella, Iowa
Entered on May 26, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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For National Public Radio’s “This I Believe”

I believe in dreams. They come true. That’s the beauty of dreams. When I was a child, dreams often played out in my mind, only to become reality as I got older.

As a poor girl growing up on the East side of Des Moines, in Norwoodville, little more than a shanty town in the late 40s, I heard my mother tell me, “Dream big; it doesn’t cost any more.” I obeyed like the Good Book said.

I was a shy little girl, dreaming of the day when I didn’t need my big sister to walk me home from school, protect me from my ornery three big brothers, fix my hair, sleep in our shared bed, or take me to the outhouse in the middle of the night. Because my big sister eased my rugged reality when our Mom was at work in a tuberculosis ward at the county hospital, I could dream.

Did I think that dreaming would take me nowhere? Nonsense! Dreaming took me anywhere, everywhere, anytime, all the time! It took me out of my small, dark hole, called, “childhood.”

My mother’s own “high-road” dream took us to California. Okay, our jalopy had no radio, no air conditioning and barely any brakes. We ran out of gas once, had six flat tires and got stranded in a hotel room free-gratis. No dreamer counts on flat tires.

Right then, stranded on the side of the road, somewhere between Des Moines and Los Angeles, waiting for Dad to hitch-hike back with a used tire, cars whizzing past us, hot, hungry, lonely, scared, I realized that dreams produce pain as well as pleasure.

Dreams, unlike the tires of today, aren’t puncture-proof. Sometimes, they’re filled with pain. After childhood polio, besides dreaming of travel, I dreamed of dancing, and I have danced the hora on the banks of Galilee in Israel. I’ve even eaten French pastry in Paris and Swedish meatballs in Gothenborg.

I used to listen to the Italian-American, Perry Como sing, “Dream on little dreamer dream on.” In 1963, I heard Martin Luther King’s eloquent speech, “I have a dream,” and today I watch films produced by “DreamWorks™.”

I couldn’t agree more–dreams work.

Why, look at me now. I’ve gone from being a high school drop-out to becoming a teacher to earning a master’s degree on scholarship from Drake University. If I’d dreamed of Harvard, that would be on my resume’, too. I’ve published my writings. I’ve traveled the world.

I continue to live my dreams. At the Iowa State Fair in 2002, I met the President of the United States. Even with the recent devastating loss of my husband of 43 years, I still dream…of getting old … staying young. Beautiful dreamer—dream on!

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